After of our exterior brick makeover.

Exterior Brick Makeover: How to Get Started

A brick exterior makeover, when done well, can boost your curb appeal. But getting the exact look you’re going for may not be as simple as you think. That’s why we’re here to help! As renovation designers with 8+ years experience buying, renovating and selling homes, we know a lot about updating exterior brick. Limewashing, mortar washing (or German Schmear), whitewashing, painting – we’ve done it all.

Here’s one of our favorite exterior brick makeovers:

Exterior brick renovation: after

Here’s what it looked like before:

Exterior brick renovation: before

The updated brick makes it so much more inviting, right?

Now, before we jump into some best practices for exterior brick makeovers, we need to start by saying this loud and clear: do not update your brick until you’ve sought out professional advice – or, at the very least, know exactly what look you’re going for.

We can’t tell you the number of times we’ve seen people attempt to paint, limewash and whitewash their exterior brick without doing proper planning and research in advance. We cringe every time. Since there are so many different styles to choose from – and because it’s not easy to go back – this isn’t the time to wing it.

Plus, before you jump into an exterior brick project, you need to know the different pros and cons of mortar washing (or German Schmear/Smear), painting, whitewashing and limewashing. Listen, there’s a time and a place for being bold, taking risks and tackling a DIY project on a whim – but the exterior of your brick home is not it. 

Here’s why doing some good research and preparation – or getting professional design advice – is important. 

3 Things to Consider Before Giving Updating Your Exterior Brick

  1. You should love what you pay for. Updating your old exterior brick is a project that costs thousands of dollars. Because there are so many colors and looks to choose from, you need to decide beforehand exactly what look you want so that you’re not disappointed later. Reaching out to a painter and saying, “I want to paint my exterior brick white. What exact color do you recommend?” isn’t going to cut it.
  2. Some methods are more permanent than others. Some brick finishes are virtually irreversible if you don’t like how it turns out. Are you prepared to commit? Likewise, some finishes will require more maintenance down the road due to exposure to the elements. Are you prepared for the expense? To make a wise decision, you need to consider the various pros and cons of each method.
  3. Your home value is at stake. When done well, this can help you sell your home. But when done poorly or incorrectly, you may damage your brick or lose out on future buyers.

Bottom line: Do not wing an exterior brick makeover or merely consult a few friends. With so many possible looks – and so many different methods to choose from – you need to do your research beforehand. 

Where to Seek Design Advice for Your Exterior Renovation

Please note that you need to do the research or consult a professional who’s experienced with exterior brick renovations. We’ve found that while painters and general contractors can do great work, most of them have very little experience finishing exterior brick – so they’re usually not prepared to offer this type of design advice.

We’re here to get you started with some best practices and steer you in the right direction! But we highly recommend consulting a renovation designer to do a mock-up of the exterior and help you hire the right people. If you’d like our help, you can reach out to us at about our e-design services.

Now that we’ve thoroughly scared you (sorry, but it’s for your own good!) this raises an important question. What is mortar washing (German Schmear) vs. painting vs. whitewashing vs. limewashing? We’re glad you asked. Come back for part two to see each of these methods and their different pros and cons.

If you love the look of limewashed brick, check out our DIY fireplace tutorial.

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  1. […] but they’re not exactly sure what they want – and they’re not sure where to start.In part one, we addressed why it is essential to do a lot of research before tackling an exterior brick […]

  2. […] from these few pictures, that there are a lot of possible looks. That’s why it’s essential to do your research before starting an exterior brick renovation – you can’t just wing something like this. And […]

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